Surf Science: Threes Company

Three's Company:
The Triad Quiver For Every Man

Words: Mike Fish
Photo: Taras

Most surfers don't house enormous board quivers. The only people lucky enough to enjoy an endless supply of surfboards are usually the pros, and maybe the occasional surfing investment banker. The majority of us just keep a few boards in rotation that cater to a diverse range of potential surf conditions and performance styles. Selecting the right sticks is no easy task, but there is a certain science to it.

Three boards is a realistic number to shoot for when building an ideal mini quiver. From there, a rider must evaluate his ability level as well as his geographic location. For example: novices often gravitate toward slightly thicker and wider boards, and shapes vary slightly for the East and West Coasts—even more dramatically for those dwelling in Hawai'i or other power swell magnets. "There are so many variables with surfboards and equipment," says Matt Kechele of Kechele Surfboards in Melbourne, Florida. "What some consider a fun board, others might see completely different."

But Kechele and other esteemed boardmakers offer similar views on building a practical trio. "The average surfer uses the normal shortboard as their staple board," says Steve Boysen of SB Surfboards in Oceanside, California. "Then they'll have a step-up that's two or three inches bigger than their regular shortboard for when it's overhead and heavier. And lastly, they'll usually have a fish shape that's good for small waves—waist-high or smaller. That's the most common setup I see that covers most conditions."

Aside from the standard shortboard, there's plenty of wiggle room for personal preference in the small- and big-wave slots. Some may opt for a traditional longboard or a midsized egg shape instead of a fish. The same also applies to the bigger wave board depending on how hard you want to charge. Boysen says he has noticed a trend, though—big-wave boards are definitely getting smaller: "No one really has huge guns anymore. The only guys that I'm making 7'6"s for these days are the ones surfing Pipe. Three inches longer these days is huge. Guys want to hot dog bigger waves with smaller boards—they're not just trying to make the drop."

That said, it all depends on your priorities. "I'm always looking to get barreled," pro/hellman Greg Long says, "So I have no problem riding a little bigger board even if it isn't the perfect size for doing turns. A bit more foam can help you chase down peaks when you're paddling, as well as get you in and out of tubes easier."

Originally published in March, 2007 issue of Transworld SURF.